Tag Archives: africa

African Safari: Samburu Game Reserve & Elephant Bedroom Camp

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WIT Founders Christina and John Cooper are currently in Africa leading a Safari Expedition through Kenya with Origins Safaris. So today we’re holding a very special “Close Look” on Kenya, particularly Samburu Game Reserve and the Elephant Bedroom Camp.

Just a short 2-3-hour drive from the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, the semi-arid Samburu Game Reserve is probably Christina’s favorite spot in all of East Africa for scenery and large herds of elephants.

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About Samburu Game Reserve

Samburu National Reserve is a rugged, semi-desert park in the Rift Valley province of Kenya. The area is approximately 65 square miles (104 sq km), and though smaller than its neighboring cousins Tsavo or Masai Mara, it’s relative remoteness makes for a naturally serene ambiance. Notable landmarks include the Ewaso Nyiro River, doum palm groves, riverine forests, acacia trees, and open savannah.

It’s famous for its plentiful wildlife, including cheetahs, warthogs, lions, elephants, buffalo, crocodiles, baboons and hippos, as well as the rarer long-necked gerenuk, Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe and Beisa onyx. Lucky safari troopers may even spot the Kenya leopard. It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise, home to 350 different species of birds including vultures, kingfishers, battlers, guinea fowl, marabous and Somali ostriches.

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In 2015, Christina and John saw a wild dog in Samburu—the first time they’ve been spotted in the region in 25 years! “Our guides were more excited than [even] we were,” Christina recalls. “It was almost dusk and we had to be back in camp but managed to watch them for about an hour. Next morning we got up very early went back to the area where we had sighted them, took about an hour to track them, but sighted them again, even saw a kill. Wild dog have an incredible range…as I know they have been sighted in the Serengeti.”

An African Safari Adventure is a lifetime experience like no other. Call Willamette Intl Travel to learn how we can arrange an Africa expedition that you’ll remember for years to come. Phone 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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About Elephant Bedroom Camp

Elephant Bedroom Camp is one of our favorite lodgings in Africa. Nestled in the shade of doum palms beside the Ewaso Nyiro River, it accommodates 12 spacious, rustic tents with private plunge pool, hot and cold running water and electricity. The camp also has a spacious lounge and dining tent with large veranda, 240V charging facilities, lectures on Samburu culture by resident naturalist, and entertainment by local Samburu warriors. Breakfast and lunch are served ‘al fresco’ on the banks of the river and dinner in the dining area. But we think the video says it best:

Tune in next Monday to see where Christina and John are headed next on their Safari Expedition!

Origins Safaris will be joining us at the 40th Birthday Bash in December! Hope to see you there!

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Conscientious Traveler: Origins Safari

It’s time for our favorite episode on responsible travel, Conscientious Traveler! CT is our monthly series in which we showcase a fantastic travel organization that supports humanitarian and/or environmental work. 

The month of August is all about Origins Safari!

Origins Safari organizes unforgettable trips to East and Central Africa. We’ve partnered up with them for years, providing invaluable experiences to travelers with a passion for wildlife and safari adventures. Most of their programs run in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, though they also touch on natural conservation areas in the South Sudan, Central African Republic, Chad, and Benin.

Many of the trips that WIT Founders Christina and John escort on their annual African trip are courtesy of Origins.

Green Africa

Origins Safari is dedicated to promoting responsible tourism and cultural heritage. They are members of several sustainable organizations, including:

AMREF Flying Doctors: In 1956, three doctors established groundbreaking medical efforts in remote and rural regions of East Africa. Their vision has spread all over the continent, treating the combined effects of poverty, tropical disease and minimal health services and facilities in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Senegal, South Sudan and South Africa. http://amnew.amref.org/

Ecotourism Kenya: This non-profit promotes responsible tourism practices, working with local communities and managing waste, maintaining the natural environment and livelihood of the local people. http://www.ecotourismkenya.org/

The East African Wild Life Society: A membership-based public benefit organization that seeks to promote conservation and the use of natural resources in East Africa. https://www.eawildlife.org/index.php

We Are Africa Travel: An organization dedicated to rethinking old tropes and stereotypes of Africans, and enhance a more modern image of the continent. http://www.weareafricatravel.com/

Just Imagine…

Imagine yourself trekking through Subsaharan Africa with certified guides and drivers, who have grown up in the region and are intimately familiar with the game and people who live there.

  • Spend a day mingling with the tribes of the Omo Delta
  • Photograph Mountain Gorillas in the Virunga Volcanoes
  • Chase the migration herds from the crow’s viewpoint in a helicopter
  • Rest up from a day’s safari in your private tented camp

Steve Turner of Origins Safaris, ground operator with whom we’ve worked closely for over 30 years, is our go-to guy and an expert on migration.

Wherever your spirit of wild adventure leads you, Origins can help you get there!

When to Go?

Steve recommends November to March as primary game viewing in Tanzania. Rain tends to the cusp months, so perfect timing is January and February, with an added bonus of birthing seas in the crater in February. From August to October, head to Kenya as the migration should be thick on the Mara.

Two Sample Itineraries

Click on the Tanzania itinerary below for a larger, legible picture: 

Origins comes to Portland in December

Origins Safari will join us on our 40th birthday celebration this December! One of our favorite guides, Stanley, will return to share with you all about Africa and the programs with Origins Safari. He’ll be our official “storyteller”—stories that will have you in stitches before long!

The date is Sunday, December 3 — see our newsletter for more details.

Call Willamette Intl Travel for more ideas and opportunities to travel in Africa! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Africa, Kenya, tanzania

A Closer Look: Ithumba Safari Camp in Kenya

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Tsavo East National Park, Kenya

Step into Africa…

Willamette Intl Travel Owners Christina and John frequently guide small groups through Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and last year, Namibia. They make it their business to know the ins and outs of safaris, camps and unique adventures in Africa. They usually take 1-2 trips per year with a small group, and over the years, they’ve accumulated a wealth of insider info on the continent. Considering a trip to Africa in 2017 or even 2018? Give Christina a call at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com for the scoop.

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Ithumba Hills

Wildlife Haven

On the Kenya 2015 trip, Christina stayed at Ithumba Camp with 3 single ladies. They stayed at the original Ithumba Camp—not to be confused with the 5-star, luxury Ithumba Hills Camp. Both camps are located minutes from each other in the same area of Tsavo East National Park, 200 km SE of Nairobi—a 7 hour drive, or a quick 60-minute charter flight from the city. The park is an ideal safari location, spanning an area of 8,036 square miles–that’s larger than Wales! It’s so remote, the only way to get cellphone reception is to climb a huge boulder and stick out your arm. You’ll truly feel at home in this wilderness, with chances to glimpse a variety of wildlife: giraffe, gazelle, lions, dik dik, and buffalo.

A Luxury Safari Camp

Though close in proximity, the two camps serve different styles of traveling.

Ithumba Camp is located on the flatlands, a rustic and stylish property. Sleep under makuti roofs and shower yourself in sounds of nature. The camp offers just four tents, with en-suite bathrooms and outdoor showers from where you can admire the stunning starlight. Water and light are powered by solar panels. An open communal pavilion with a small roof terrace is open daily for meals; here you can find the game-viewing decks.

Ithumba Hills is based at the foot of Ithumba Hill, with views of the Yatta Plateau. Like the original camp, Ithumba Hills offers 4 tents, sleeps up to 8 people—but its rates are higher due to more luxurious facilities. Since the whole camp must be booked regardless of how many people there are, it can book up surprisingly fast, sometimes a year in advance. And when we say luxury, we really mean it—each tent offers a five-star experience, with en-suite bathrooms, huge shower areas and dressing rooms. Their game-viewing decks are located off the tents, and there is a huge infinity pool built into the rocks.

Both camps are fully fenced, as there are many wild elephants in the area. All food and drinks are driven in by your safari guide from Nairobi, though Ithumba provides the chef and two other staff.

Baby Elephants!

What really makes Ithumba shine, however, are the nearby Orphans’ Rehabilitation Units, an orphanage for baby elephants who have lost their parents to poaching or other means. Both Ithumba camps and unit are owned by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. The DSWT initiative fights to save elephant lives and their habitats, with their Nairobi Nursery, Saving Habitats in Kibwezi Forest, and these orphan units in Tsavo East. 

Guests can visit the elephant orphans two times a day, meet the calves and chat with their handlers. It’s a special treat to watch baby elephants enjoying milk feeding times and their midday mud-bath.

Join us in September 2017!

Christina will be returning to Ithumba in September 2017. Call her now to start planning your unforgettable trip to Kenya! 503-224-0180 or info@wittravel.com

“I highly recommend Ithumba Safari Camp… after the amazing experience I had last year, I know it’ll be a highlight for you. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be completely surrounded by herds of wild elephants. You also learn what an incredible job Sheldrick Orphanage is doing in attempts to save these beautiful animals.”

–Christina

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Ithumba Hills

Photos of previous trips to Kenya:

Related posts on Africa:

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Ringing in the New Year

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It’s our last post of the year, and 2016 has been quite a big one!

Thank you to all of our clients whose trips we’ve arranged these year; it was our pleasure to see that you enjoy the vacation you deserve. We hope that you made albums full of memories to treasure your whole lives. Some of our clients this year have been new, some we have serviced for the past 20 years. We take pride in providing the most special and informed travel arrangements for each and every one. Thank you, clients and subscribers to our blog, without you our business would not be possible.

This past year there have been a fair share of changes in the office. We saw long-time staff member Linda Fisher retire. Krista left for Arizona, and Racheal, Lori and Debbie joined us as new agents.

Our Agents embarked on a few trips this year, which we’re so excited to share with you. Christina and John led a group in Namibia. Barb visited the new locks at the Panama Canal. Pam dropped in on the islands of Malta. Nancy sailed with Viking Ocean, and Barb and Racheal with Un-Cruise Adventures to Baja California. Wailana moved to Stockholm, where she continues to work with our social media.

Next year we will celebrate our 40th birthday–quite an accomplishment! Mark the weekend of August 5-6, 2017 on your calendars, we’ll be planning a special Birthday party. We hope to see you there.

For more updates, catch up with us in our newsletter from Fall 2016.

Here’s to 2017 having more Travel in store for everyone!

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Safari in Namibia

Transylvania, the Land Beyond the Forest

The Elephants that Came to Dinner

Napili Kai Beach Resort

Agent Trip Report: Malta

And a flashback from the past: Where to Spot the Southern Cross

See you next year! — From all of us at Willamette Intl Travel

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Filed under Africa, California, Europe, Mexico, Namibia

Safari in Namibia: Feedback from Our Clients

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PLUS Photos from WIT Owner Christina

In August and September, WIT Owners Christina and John escorted a group through the Namibian Desert, with the assistance of Ultimate Safaris. 

Our Clients, Jacques & Evelyne V., wrote a great letter about their adventure with them. We are proud to feature their feedback from the trip here. Read on for the enlightening details: 

“My wife Evelyne and I, Jacques, were on a safari from 27 August to 7 September with Michael and Usko as our drivers, guides and live encyclopedias with the Christina and John Cooper group from Willamette Intl Travel. We are back home in Paris, France now so we would like to take some time to say how much we enjoyed the whole trip.

First of all, we wish to thank Michael and Usko (our drivers and guides) for being such fantastic, wonderful persons. They are both the best drivers we have ever encountered on trips: very safe drivers, courteous, polite, efficient, discrete, always well dressed and made us feel like they were family or old friends which in a way they were for the time we spent with them, nearly twenty hours a day. 

They have eyes like hawks and saw way before any of us what and where to look for wild animals, birds or plants. They always knew where they were going, never got lost and kept their vehicles in tip-top shape and always nice and clean inside and out. We always had cool water to drink from the refrigerators in the cars and if any of us wanted to stop for any reason, all we had to say was ‘stop’ and they did. Sundowners were special moments that we appreciated very much. The lodges, tented camps and hotels were marvelous and so was the quality and presentation of the food served at meal times.

We can only hope for Ultimate Safaris that you will be able to hold on to Michael and Usko so that they will not go to work for another company but could there be such competition to attract these two extraordinary men? We don’t imagine another company in Namibia to be better then Ultimate Safaris. We were extremely impressed from the first to the last days with Christina and John, the staff of Ultimate Safaris, and your wonderful country of Namibia.

Thank you very much, Michael, Usko, and the Ultimate Safaris staff for being such great hosts, you have done a fabulous job to make our trip memorable.

All the best from Evelyne and Jacques.”

Below are a few photos taken by Christina on her iphone — along with her comments — rare glimpses into the deserts of Namibia. 

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Ghostly elephant in Etosha National Park. As you can see, it’s very dry – they’re desperate for a good rainfall, which has not happened for a few years. The elephants rolling in the “white dust” appear ghostly.

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The shrub shows how dry Etosha National Park, and indeed Namibia, is

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This is the type of countryside around Sorris Sorris Lodge, Darmanland, quite amazing rock outcrops

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This is a room at our Sorris Sorris Lodge in Darmanland. Truly amazing architecture and surroundings, amazing accommodation and food. Each course of dinner was served on differently designed china from Portugal.

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We did the balloon ride over the Namib Desert–a gorgeous sight!

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This is in the Namib Desert – golden sand – our guides found the small spider which buries deep into the sand — but I enjoyed the shadows!

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There are the very rare desert elephants in Darmaland — they have adjusted to living with very little water and go deep into the dry river bed. We were very lucky (or perhaps because we had such great guides!) to find them — we were actually surrounded by a herd of about 30.

Read More of Our Posts on Namibia:

Considering a Unique Adventure in Africa? Call us up or schedule an appointment at our office. We have been sending clients to Africa (and guiding them) for years, and would love to share with you all we know about this amazing continent. Let us book the perfect African safari for you! Call us at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Africa, Europe, Namibia

Balloons in Namibia

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WIT Founder Christina reports from Namibia today:

Well worth getting up at 440am for this experience!

Christina and her husband John are escorting a small band of travelers through Namibia for the next few weeks. Call Willamette Intl Travel for everything you need to know about travel to Africa. 503-224-0180 or info@wittravel.com. 

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Photo by Christina Cooper

 

 

Namib Sky Balloon Safaris are a famous tourist attraction in the Sossuvlei Area and Namib Rand Nature Reserve. It’s one of the most unforgettable experiences in the whole country. Visitors meet 30 minutes before sunrise, at three points: Sesriem, Kulala Lodge, or the Reserve. Then marvel at a breathtaking, one-of-a-kind sunrise! You drift silently over the desert for about an hour, with exceptional views of the red and tawny desert sands. Upon landing, enjoy a champagne breakfast and a nature drive back.

For the past couple weeks we’ve been sharing all about Namibia on the blog. From wildlife safaris to action-packed adventures, this country is a jewel among many. In case you missed them, our previous posts on Namibia: Reading List and Just the Facts

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Filed under Africa, Namibia, News

The Elephants that Came to Dinner

Wild Elephant Herd Walks through a Hotel

For years, Mfuwe Lodge in Zambia has played host to a group of elephants who shuffle through the lobby and the courtyard to feast on mangoes. Watch as they bring their newborn baby, “Lord Wellington,” through the premises. Though normally dangerous creatures, especially with a new calf in tow, these particular African elephants have an unprecedented trust for the cameramen and hotel staff.

WIT Owners Christina and John embark on escorted trips through Kenya and Tanzania every year! Read all about our upcoming Africa trips in our Newsletter. You’ll find details on page 4 regarding trips to Namibia (Aug 2016), Serengeti and Tanzania (Feb 2017), and Kenya (Sept 2017). Call us to get on the waitlist for Namibia–there may just be a spot for you! On our newsletter you can also check out the report from the 2015 trip (page 5), and our clients Doug & Diane’s feedback on their 6-week trip to South Africa (page 14). 

WIT Agent Nancy was fortunate enough to go on a South African Safari last year. Check out her elephant photos from the trip: 
[This is] a series of my photos while on safari in the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve. A baby ellie challenged our vehicle; his Mom didn’t let him get so close though.  And the extreme close up of Mom is because she was about six inches from the back of my head, as I sat on the top back seat of the vehicle 🙂
 
 
Who doesn’t adore Baby Elephants?
More Posts on Africa on our Blog:
WIT Owner Christina in Tanzania: 
 
Would you like to know more about Africa? Let us know in the comments! Subscribe to our blog to get the latest weekly updates on travel. 

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Filed under Africa, News